How to Get an M-Pesa Refund

and other Safaricom tales

M-Pesa mistake: I interacted with two products over the weekend from Safaricom: One is of course MPesa from Safaricom (Kenya’s largest mobile company), the money transfer system that has been the talk of the remittance and mobile banking world; but what should be a Kenyan success story, is a Vodafone (UK ) tested, developed, and rolled out here as a Safaricom licensee. There was quite a bit of discussion of that at the mobile for change summit on Saturday in Nairobi, but that’s for another day.

My M-Pesa tale is one that many of the 6 million registered users have probably experienced. You go to a pharmacy/cyber café/supermarket and pay a Safaricom agent your money to load you phone up with funds (up to Kshs. 35,000 or ~$450) and zap it off to pay for anything – grandma’s medicine, farm inputs, auto spare parts, satellite TV, etc. the list of MPesa uses is growing

You then wait for a few seconds and get a confirmation message of the transfer, only to discover that you have sent the money to the wrong recipient! Somewhere in Kenya, there was a lady with an unexpected month-end bonus from an anonymous donor. Common rare courtesy calls for one to refund the money, but #$%* did not answer my calls.

It appeared that I would not be able to persuade her to refund my money and so I wrote it off as money lost. I went back to the same agent, and paid money again and sent it off to my aunt, this time with the correct number.

I was still mad and went on to @Twitter ranting and raving that I had sent the wrong person my money and that #$%* had probably gone on a celebration spree as some idiot had sent her a weekend bonus. But on twitter my prayers were answered – by @69MB (who’s traveling in Tanzania) and @Ngeny who sent tweets back, that I could halt that transfer unless #$%* had already withdrawn the money.

Next, I rushed and called the dreaded (always busy) customer service line at Safaricom (#100) to try and get my money back. After a dozen attempts, I got through and was asked to call another line at Safaricom (#234). This one was even busier, but I eventually got through to a gentleman, and I explained the error I made. He asked several questions – my name, intended recipients number, amount sent, number wrongly sent to, my birth date etc. I had all the answers and was very relieved when he said that my money would be refunded within 72 hours. EDIT (uhusiano add that there is an Mpesa Customer Care dedicated line 0722002200)

Oh and about a ½ hour after I finished with Safaricom #$%* tried to call me, perhaps she had raced to agent to withdraw her booty only to be told that the transfer had been held up. I was courteous enough not to answer her call and yell at her

So I now have my money back (still in my phone) and I’ve learnt, thanks to Twitter, and Safaricom, that it’s possible to get an M-Pesa refund


official advice from Safaricom

If you send money to the wrong number:

  • Call Line 234 immediately and provide them with the number that has erroneously received the cash.
  • Funds sent to a wrong number will be reversed only if still available in the wrong recipients’ account.
  • If successful, you will receive an SMS indicating that a reversal has been done

Micro air-time loan :

The other Safaricom product I tried to use was Okoa Jahazi (rescue a sailor in Swahili? – someone correct me) (Okoa Jahazi literary means save/rescue a ship/boat/dhow in Swahili) which works on the premise that you may be stranded somewhere and need to maker an emergency call but don’t have money or are not in a place where you can buy an airtime voucher to complete the call.

Okoa Jahazi is a 50 shilling ($0.65) airtime voucher, almost a micro-loan, which you can request from Safaricom by typing a simple code. It’s not free and will be deducted the next time you purchase a similar voucher. It also attracts a 10% levy, so you get just 45 shillings.

I requested the voucher, as an experiment and made some calls. I then bought a replacement 50 shilling voucher which paid off the micro-loan from Safaricom. But I had a bit of difficulty after that; I could not call a rival network (Zain, Orange) or browse the internet, using the borrowed airtime – it was strictly for making calls to other Safaricom users. So I had to buy another voucher, to get my credit up and out of my micro-debt. This comes when you don’t read the fine print. Anyway, it’s a useful service, but one that should only be used for emergencies.


So we have two products form Safaricom. One I have used several times, and will probably use again, one that I hope I will not have to use again (emergency only). The rules are quite clear, but few read the fine print of the offers made by service companies. It makes sense that the micro-loan is restricted to minimal emergency functions, but it would also be nice of Safaricom to inform their (6 million) MPesa users that it is possible to get refunds from M-pesa. If I was not on @Twitter I’d have lost a lot of money

13 thoughts on “How to Get an M-Pesa Refund

  1. sbcrest

    I’ve had 2 M-pesa refunds both unique. First one, the wrong recipient went ahead and sent my money to another lady and I’d all but given up on getting my loot back. Went into a safcom company outlet and the woman who’d been sent my money by her pal who’d received my cash erroneously had’nt withdrawn it yet. This 3rd party transfer was refunded, even though I was late in reporting my mistake. Second time, the money was back after a whopping EIGHT DAYS, after that time tested US customer service line ‘ I need to speak with your supervisor!’ Safcom would drastically reduce 234 calls if recipient numbers could simply be synced to our phonebooks…but then again that would make it too easy, who’re we kidding this is Kenya.

  2. kachwanya

    A friend of mine was once in same situation but the only route we knew of getting the money back was through begging the recipient to return the money which is not an easy task. Lucky for my friend the lady on the other end was so good and polite. She returned the money without any much questions. I have learned something in your case and i strongly agree that Safaricom should inform all their users on how to get their money back in case of an error.

  3. uhusiano

    I followed your war cries on twitter too, glad you got your money back. I have since discovered an Mpesa Customer Care dedicated line 0722002200. For any problems related to Mpesa. Zain’s Zap have the option of you choosing from your phonebook, looks like Zain’s programmers got ahead of Safaricom on this one; much more paying electricity bills on Zap is free, on Safaricom is KES 10. *Please note am not a Zain’s appointed mole just facts straight as they come, am actually disappointed with Zain’s CC who have no regard to the needs of it’s users.

  4. Anonymous

    Jahazi is Swahili for a large boat…. and not sailor. We do learn something everyday…

  5. coldtusker

    How did they come up with okoa jahazi? (For the ngumu swa guys out there… what is lifeline/lifeboat/lifesaver in swa?)

    Well, until we get the Nairobi Dam cleaned up, we will not need lifeboats/lifesavers in Nairobi…

  6. KR

    I had also followed your twitter on this. I am glad you got your money back. But to be fair maybe the lady did not have airtime to call you back or was looking for a way to send it back. 🙂

    And for sharing on how it is done.

  7. pinkm

    My first M Pesa transaction ever which was a deposit was sent to another person’s account thanks to a prefix error (0721/0712). Well, let’s say I was queuing at Safaricom customer care while trying the 234 number at the same time. Learnt the rough way.

    Yeah, Okoa Jahazi isn’t all that. This day I needed to finish a tweet (trust the twitter addict), Okoad the Jahazi but couldn’t log back into my Twitter! Tsk Tsk Safaricom.

  8. bankelele

    PKW: yes I did, thanks to @twitter

    Sbcrest: it would be nice if they could sync with phonebooks or in the confirmation before sending display the recipients MPesa name, not jus their number

    Kachwanya: I’ve refunded misplaced airtime, but I’ve never gotten a wrong m-pesa. I’m sure I’d return it though

    Uhusiano: thanks for the new lines, have updated the post. I’d not use m-pesa to pay electricity – you get credited 2 days later? (Power would be cut)

    Anon: Asante Sana

    Coldtusker: Nairobi Dam is a relic, there’s a society and sailing club that tries to redeem it, but between hyacinth and sewerage it’s a tough battle

    KR: I called her 6x times, her phone just rang, she only ‘flashed’ me (sent a ‘please call me’ free message) after I canceled the transfer. I doubt her sincerity

    Mama, Maishinski: you’re welcome

    EK13: a ‘PHEW!’ moment even if the amount was not that large

    PinkM: I think most mistakes come in the prefixes (0721/0712) even my mistake.
    As for okoa jahazi, even twitter should qualify (it did for me)

  9. James

    Thanks alot for sharing the info. I have saved that dedicated #. It happened to me once, luckily i called a buddy @safcom who called the department and my cash was reversed.

    There is another issue that you can possibly advise guys if not yet. The Bambanet thing. If you load credit of say 1K = 300MB its strictly valid for 1 month. Now, if by end of the 30 days you still have, say 100 MBs = aprox KES 330, u LOOSE all (was soo mad!) ..even if u load the next day…u get ‘new’ 300MB….But if you load AGAIN anytime before the 30 days are over say 29th day, you dont loose any MBs. . they get added to the ‘new’ load. Question is,where does the already purchased airtime go? I told them that is theft. Safaricom should give customers at least 30 days period where if you load again within the ‘grace’ period you recovery back the hard earned MBS!

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